I have never found virtual desktops to be so much of a use. However today I tried one and actually found it pretty useful. The basic idea is to have several desktops with the opened windows there (the icons on the desktop stay the same but you can actually change the wallpaper). Instead of minimizing and restoring windows, use the hotkey to switch to the different desktop. For example, on the first screen at work I have my development environment, on the second web I keep chat, email related application windows, and my mp3 player with the file manager go into the third virtual desktop. System tray (aka notification area or bottom right corner :))stays the same all the time and only the taskbar is changing from one virtual desktop to another.
Mcrosoft has this utility as a part of the PowerToys for WindowsXP. However I have found similar utility that I like more, since it seems to be a bit faster and it open source: